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Pennsylvania's Anthracite Mines and Miners: A Portrait of the Industry in America Art, c. 1860-1940

Jadviga M. da Costa Nunes
IA. The Journal of the Society for Industrial Archeology
Vol. 28, No. 1, IA IN ART (2002), pp. 11-32
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40947141
Page Count: 22
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Pennsylvania's Anthracite Mines and Miners: A Portrait of the Industry in America Art, c. 1860-1940
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Abstract

Fueled by anthracite coal, the Industrial Revolution began in eastern Pennsylvania, which had the nation's only major source of hard or anthracite coal. Within a small, approximately 484-square-mile area in 10 northeastern counties, anthracite would become one of the state's most important economies and sources of labor by 1860. Although beset by problems of labor unrest, occupational hazards, oversupply, volatile market conditions, and fierce competition, the industry continued to expand until 1917. In the 1920s, the competition from bituminous coal, gas, and electricity took their toll, and the anthracite industry began a slow decline from which it never recovered. The years of the Depression further exacerbated the situation. Throughout most of these decades, however, Americans took pride in the industry as a vital force behind the nation's rapid economic, industrial, and technological progress. The role of the industry did not go unnoticed by artists, many of whom believed that American art should play a role in defining national character. Aside from their aesthetic concerns, the decisions artists made about what, how, and even whether to represent the anthracite industry derived from attitudes shared by many fellow Americans. Many artists personally traveled to and explored the landscape and labor of the anthracite region, since it was located not far from either New York or Philadelphia, the two major centers of artistic activity in these decades. The works of art they created of the industry are significant as much for their cultural as their aesthetic importance.

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